Tuesday, 1 March 2016

A dinner party for toddlers, why lamb shanks and beer...what else?!

When I cook Nigel's lamb with beer and shallots on February 27 (meant to be February 25 see pages 61 - 63 of the book) I have two toddlers planned to be at my dinner table that evening.  So, lamb shanks and beer may not sound like the best dish for them.  Both the toddlers at the meal table were baby led weaned and I am pleased to say they are both currently happy and adventurous eaters.  I have previously been nervous about cooking with alcohol but regularly consult The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook by Nikki Duffy.  Whether you puree or baby led wean this book is a must for any family home.

The guidance here is not all alcohol will be burnt off.  A long slow cooked stew, like this, will retain very small amounts of alcohol and accordingly she advises not to do this for children under 12 months.  To assist with reducing the amount of alcohol in this recipe, I cook the beer on the hob for a bit longer and watch it evaporate off and even cook it for a little longer in the oven than Nigel suggests.  I also do not serve the children with any of the sauce.  The meat is so tender and succulent it really is not needed.

Whilst on a toddler cooking moment, I often use Rapeseed Oil instead of Olive Oil unless the recipe really demands the flavour of Olive Oil.  Again Nikki Duffy advises that this is a good source of omega 3 essential fatty acids and Vitamin E.  Also, that where possible you should buy a British Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil and I find this one from Aldi (other supermarkets available) excellent.

Right, back to Nigel and the Lamb Shanks.  My husband was charged with purchasing two small lamb shanks.  What he returned with was something more akin to, two legs of lamb...

As you will see they just fitted into my pan for browning!! Accordingly, for the boozy reasons above and due to the sheer size of my shanks, I had to adjust the cooking times.  These are the lamb shanks before they go into the oven:

This is a great prepare ahead and forget about it supper with all the ingredients very easy to come by.  With the exception of the shallots we had everything we needed at home already.  I do have a slight confession here (I have had so many confessions in this blog I feel like a Priest!) I did not make the parsnip mash.  I HATE parsnips.  This is not like my earlier, I do not like celeriac but I will give it a go.  I genuinely detest parsnips.  Oh, I can hear you, "but at christmas with honey or maple syrup all sweet and crispy, they are delicious!" No, they are not and my mum spent many years trying to 'hide' parsnips as roast potatoes.  Imagine saving that roast spud till the end of your dinner to find out it is a parsnip.  I am not sure I have ever quite forgiven her...

Anyways, mine will come with a side of regular mash to which I will still add the butter and the cream for a little treat and to follow Nigel's recipe more closely.  The finished article is here:

I know I always say this but it was delicious! It was a cold windy February day and this is just what the doctor ordered.  Both the toddlers loved this dish.  Like Nigel, they are huge fans of the lamb shank.  The meat is so soft and tender it is easy for their little teeth and the flavour is excellent but subtle.  Nothing too overpowering here.  They both have extra portions as do my husband and I, plus there were still left overs for the next day.



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